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November 2, 2014

The Aurelian Challenge

I recently read Meditations, and really enjoyed it. Of the many admonitions I drew from its pages, this was the greatest challenge put forth:

I’ve been fascinated by the working parts in this suggestion, hoping I can get them all reflected in my daily living.

  • Live your last day, every day. This is the hardest to execute, as so much of our living is based on the pretext of another day coming. Buying groceries, making plans, seeing projects through to completion. But the crux of this concept, if I understand it correctly, is to bring to resolution as much as possible each day until each day could be your last day. Perhaps there will still be food in your refigerator and plans incompleted on your actual last day, but will you have lived without regret? Will there be nothing that you are sad to leave outstanding or undone? Perhaps you should do those things now, as tomorrow really isn’t promised.
  • Without frenzy. Much of today’s life, it seems, is about hoping from one whirlwind to the next. Multitasking your life away at work, juggling anything that comes your way. Keeping romance aflame through activity and spontaneity. Partying aggressively with wanton abandon and living in the moment. At first glance this may seem to satisfy the “live your last day, every day” challenge, but in truth this constant chasing and grasping, however earnest, is of little substance. The opposite of frenzied is calm, ordered, and systematic. Perhaps it is impossible to make such sense of the world at large, but we can through practice make our actions less furtive and reactionary, more measured and reasonable.
  • Or sloth. This one is self-explanatory. While downtime is necessary, there’s not a person in the world who hasn’t felt that they could have used a segment of time more productively. Again, this is something that comes with practice; a working into the fibers of our being a disposition for active thinking and doing. In the same way that authors are encouraged to write a page a day if they ever hope to accomplish the novel, we too should fight laziness daily if we hope to accomplish our life dreams.
  • Or pretense. If it really were your last day, would you still care if people talked about your outfit? Whether your car matched your position in life? Whether your business card correctly displayed your credentials? Would you still not tell that person you loved them for fear of rejection? So much of our lives exists in a state paralyzed for the order and form of society. Screw that. Live to better yourself and to improve your community. If it doesn’t hurt society, it doesn’t hurt you. Sure it may bruise your ego, and your pride may be shattered, but those things were restricting your anyway. Live with sincerity.

So yeah, trying to keep all of those in mind on a daily basis is a challenging endeavor. But I think it’s an effort worth striving for, a character worth obtaining.

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